Penn & Teller Dish from London

Inside Magic Image of Penn & TellerPenn & Teller are in London and the toast of the town with great press. We read this morning’s Telegraph for a nice interview with the duo. They express their admiration for Derren Brown, “He’s one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen. He really puts a lot of intelligence and thought into it. He’s an artist,” said Teller.

They profess only luke-warm enthusiasm for Dynamo, “Teller says that while they admire his skills, ‘we know people like Johnny Thompson who’s 78 – and by comparison with whom [Dynamo’s] skills are somewhat… minimal. Compared with some of the old masters of this stuff.’”

They respect David Copperfield’s incredible work-ethic but bemoan the otherwise dormant magic scene.

“[Copperfield] does really good tricks, and he’s always doing new ones. But there aren’t many [magicians], you know?” Penn says heavily. Yes, there’s Siegfried and Roy, “but since Roy got his head bit off by a tiger, that slows him down somewhat. David Blaine doesn’t really do anything now. Why not? I don’t know. I don’t think he made that much money.”

We note that this is the latest in their 40 years of giving interviews where they fail to mention Inside Magic. Perhaps they are saving their effusive praise for our dogged coverage for a big presser once they return to Las Vegas. Yes, that is most certainly it. After all, tens of readers over the course of twenty years adds up to a statistical probability that they have heard of us.

We are most fascinated by behind the scenes stuff. We love logistics. So, for us, the key nuggets came at the end of the article wherein we learn the two get together on Tuesdays each week to brainstorm new tricks. That is the kind of geeky, inside information that makes us giddy. We would love to be present during one of those sessions. We wouldn’t say a word or even give some sort of indication of our existence – sort of as if we were a fly or insect in the room – we would just listen and relish the moment.

We learned that they have been working on a new effect that sounds pretty interesting. They are looking for a way to perform the Vanishing Elephant but with a live cow dressed as an elephant. We don’t know why that sounds cool but it does. We cannot imagine it is easy to work with cows and note that very few magicians have used cows in their acts in the last twenty years.

We knew of a former husband and wife act (former because they divorced) in which the husband referred to his wife as a cow on stage but that does not count. She didn’t vanish but did get a lawyer. He is doing close-up now and has “returned to ‘real magic’” with just a deck of cards and a few coins.” We suspect his new emphasis on cards and coins had something to do with the results of his divorce settlement.

Penn & Teller, like David Copperfield, seem to be asked the same questions by all interviewers. They do their best to give interesting answers and some reporters follow-up with interesting questions that lead to new information. Not often, though. That is not their fault. The Telegraph article is one of the better interview pieces we have read and worth your consideration.

Magician David Copperfield Engaged

Inside Magic Image of David CopperfieldWe love Inside Magic Favorite David Copperfield but our love is more of a fan-based love and so we are not jealous in the slightest to hear that the peripatetic performer of prestidigitation has proposed and said proposal has been accepted by 28-year-old French model Chloe Gosselin.

Ms. Gosselin and Mr. Copperfield are proud parents of their 3-year-old daughter, Sky.

Said Ms. Gosselin, “I’m so lucky to have found David. There are very few people in the world like him. He’s spent more than 30 years at the top of his profession. He’s achieved some extraordinary things.”

We wish the family well.  What a great way to start this New Year.

David Blaine: The Next Last Greatest Magician in the World?

Inside Magic Image of Ed Mishell DrawingMagician and endurance maven David Blaine takes to the air this evening in the United States through ABC television to ask Real or Magic?  He is joined in this endeavor by Will Smith, Olivia Wilde, Woody Allen, Stephen Hawking and other celebrities who, we are informed, will react to his tricks.

We like David Blaine and believe he has done much to revitalize our wonderful craft and feel badly that we want him to be different than the way he is.  He is not Doug Henning or David Copperfield or Harry Blackstone Jr. but he is very talented and, in his own way, charismatic and captivating.

Still, we miss Doug Henning performing the Water Torture Tank live on national television.  We miss David Copperfield’s well produced escapes and illusions performed on tape but with the assurance the home audience was seeing the events unfold in real time without camera tricks.  We miss Harry Blackstone Jr. for many, many reasons; not the least of which was his wonderful persona – so serious and light-hearted at the same time and able to convince even the most jaded teenager that he could really perform magic.

But David Blaine is bringing magic to the audience of the times where camera trickery is expected and even celebrated.  Attention spans are short and expectations are high.   Each generation of magic faces a similar challenge.  Jim Steinmeyer’s outstanding book, The Last Greatest Magician in the World tells of Howard Thurston making the transition from vaudeville to the traveling, full-evening show and the ultimate demise of that elaborate show type.  We know of Thurston today because he survived and conquered the new formats and met his audience where they sat.  They were no longer in vaudeville halls watching one of eight shows in a day’s time.  They came to see a full-length show and he had the props and chops to show them what they wanted to see – year after year.

We like David Blaine and wish him the best with his newest take on a classic art.  If there is anyone that can again move magic in a new direction, it is David Blaine.

Great Magicians Kevin and Cindy Spencer Get Great Press

Inside Magic Image of Kevin and Cindy Spencer from their Web Site spencersmagic.comTwo of the nicest magicians we know, Kevin and Cindy Spencer are set to delight audiences in Greenville, Tennessee this Friday evening.

Their show “Theatre of Illusion” includes more than 12 tons of illusions and favorably compares to David Copperfield’s traveling cavalcade in terms of size and amazement per second.   They stuff (neatly) their show into a 65-foot customized truck and trailer and, like the great magic shows of the past, travel the world.

Mr. Spencer’s background is clinical psychology and so it seems fitting to trust one’s sense of perception to him.  “I was going to help people’s minds, but now I just mess with them.”

We cannot think of nicer people to mess with our minds.

Of course, it could be that Kevin and Cindy Spencer have just messed with our minds so well that we would think that.  We need to stop thinking about that possibility, though because it gives us a headache in our eyeball.

The Theatre of Illusion takes the best parts of Broadway and arena-style rock concerts to bring magic to family audiences.  We have it on good authority, they are the only artists in history to be named Performing Arts Entertainers of the Year for a record-breaking six consecutive years and have twice been named America’s Best Entertainers.

To support our claim that they are a great people as well as great magicians, we note first that Kevin Spencer’s outreach program The Healing of Magic – a partnership with local healthcare providers that uses simple magic tricks in rehabilitation.  The program brings together caregivers, medical professionals and patients.

As if that was not sufficient to prove their inherent goodness, the Spencers have consistently supported Inside Magic over the last 60 years we have been on the webs.  We receive updates from them as they crisscross the globe.

If you are in the Greenville, Tennessee area this week, be sure to check out one of the reasons we are so proud of our association with magicians.  Tickets may be purchased online at www.npacgreeneville.com, in person at the NPAC box office or by calling (423) 638-1679.

David Kwong’s Misdirectors Guild Makes Movie Magic

Inside Magic Image of Now You See Me Movie PosterMagician and movie consultant David Kwong founded The Misdirectors’ Guild as “an elite group of magicians who specialize in illusion and deception for film and television.”  He and his colleagues have been busy of late with Hollywood films like The Incredible Burt WonderstoneNow You See Me and Red Lights starring Robert De Niro as a mind-reader and mentalist. (It apparently had a limited release in the United States but we heard the first thirty minutes featured the debunking of spiritualism tricks).

The Misdirectors Guild site lists several other Mr. Kwong and his group helped.  It is a pretty impressive list.

“Magic is all storytelling,” says Mr. Kwong told FastCoCreate.com. “It has an arc that’s introduced, then played out for the big reveal. There’s a foreshadowing along the way. I like the idea of putting clues out there is plain sight–introducing the simplest of magic tricks, then making their concept play out in a big way.”

He would know.  Mr. Kwong is not only a real-life magician, but he has also worked with some of the true big names in our business; like Ricky Jay and David Copperfield.  For Now You See Me, Mr. Kwong worked with the director and screenwriters to “make the illusions in the film as plausible as possible, while furthering the plot.”  That is a tough job.  There has to be a temptation to save the time and money necessary to teach actors sleight of hand with a few well-placed computer-generated imagery (“CGI”).

Mr. Kwong was on the Now You See Me set for about eight months teaching card sleights to the cast.  He claims the film tried to keep the magic real.  “All the illusions in the film are based on real practical effects,” Mr. Kwong told FastCoCreate.com. “Even a 3-D projection done on the side of a building is now used as a marketing tool. The actors employed a fair amount of real sleight of hand.”
Continue reading David Kwong’s Misdirectors Guild Makes Movie Magic